Nearly half of Duval County public schools need safety upgrades

District confirms 8 schools don't have buzzers to restrict who enters buildings

By Destiny McKeiver - Multi-media journalist

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - As Florida reels from a Broward County high school mass shooting that left 17 dead, districts across the state are evaluating the safety of their schools.

Duval County Public Schools officials confirmed that 81 of the 197 schools in the district need safety and facility upgrades.

RELATED: Jacksonville-area school districts on alert after Parkland mass shooting

Superintendent Dr. Patricia Willis said the Legislature cut funding needed for safety improvements, leaving it up to districts to make do.

“We are looking at the possibilities of the resources that we have that we can address that in any way,” Willis said of the safety concerns.

The 81 schools needing upgrades include 11 schools that lack electronic buzzers, a security measure that allows staff in the front office to evaluate who is trying to get into a school before permitting entry. Three of those schools aren't designed to handle such a system, which is why school officials said they will never have an electronic buzzer.

One of the schools without a buzzer system is Landon Middle School in San Marco.

A parent of a student at that school told News4Jax that he actually kept his daughter home from school for three days last week -- before the South Florida massacre -- to protest safety concerns at Landon Middle.

“I kept my daughter out of school until I actually found out they secured the screen door,” Tim Sloan said.

He said he went to the School Board with his concerns and now the entrance door of Landon Middle has a lock and is guarded by a staff member.

Sloan said the mass shooting in Parkland could have happened in Duval County, and the thought gives him chills.

“The bottom line is that we don't know what school security was like (at Stoneman Douglas High School),” Sloan said. “This should be one of the first responsibilities -- to make sure to have a secure environment for our children, as well as the teachers and the staff, to learn in.”

News4Jax asked DCPS for a list of the schools without buzzers, and we were given the following statement:

Duval County Public Schools is committed to providing safe and secure buildings for students and staff and utilizes various major security monitoring methods including camera surveillance and monitored controlled access systems (MCAS). While the MCAS systems exist in the vast majority of our schools, we are currently working to provide funding for eight of our schools who do not have this system as quickly as possible. District administration will bring this for Board consideration in the near future. Three additional schools are not architecturally compatible with a monitored controlled access system. District facility and police personnel will work to design the best possible solutions to control entry to these campuses. 

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